London calling…

What about you, are you a dreamer?

Nikita khandelwal

Nikita Khandelwal

In a previous post, I told you that the new and unprecedented lockdown period had led to three major types of sleep disruption. Consequently, some people told me about sleep disruption induced by a high level of anxiety related to the pandemic. These people admitted to more frequent, sometimes strange and at times even worrying, vivid dreams. Let me tell you about Laura’s dream, which recurred throughout the lockdown. In her dream, she is a passenger on a plane about to take off at night. Safely secured in her seat, the plane picks up speed at a normal rate and takes off. Suddenly, the pilot announces loudly through the loud-speakers that a technical problem has occurred on the plane, forcing it to land in emergency. Laura clutches her seat belt as if her life depended on it. The plane lands in a crash, shaking the passengers in every direction. She takes a look out of the window, and notices that the plane is speeding relentlessly through the streets of London and on the Thames, while the leader of The Clash starts singing London Calling… The world of dreams still has a lot of mysteries to offer, for Laura and for everybody else. This is indeed a particularly intense subject of research which enables us to learn more every day about the role of dreams. Thus, bad dreams such as Laura’s lockdown one are very typical in stressful situations, and validate one of the recent theories about the functions of dreaming: to virtually simulate a threat, in order to better face it during the day. Laura simulates a virtual lockdown - attached on the plane - to better face it during the day, all while trying to escape from this situation by projecting herself towards a future escape in a capital city. In other terms, dreams mainly have the function of emotional regulation. But that’s not it. Some high-level athletes I accompany shared with me their concern about dreaming less than during a normal training period. For a high-level athlete training between 30 to 35 hours per week, the stark reduction in diurnal activity during the lockdown may indeed have been problematic, and indirectly spilled over onto their ability to dream. The quantity of movement throughout the day influences the quality of your sleep. There is still a lot to discover but the vestibular system of the inner ear, which is particularly sensitive to gravitational stimulation, may have an influence on your sleep. It informs the brain about the daily amount of activity, quite like an actimeter which records your number of steps throughout the day. Indirectly, this could contribute to a higher or lesser amount of dreams. That way, astronauts in space have a reduction in rapid eye movement sleep duration. This sleep stage produces the most dreams, it is reduced in space due to the absence of terrestrial gravity. Thus, your night’s dreams are a valuable piece of information for the day ahead. And the quality of your day favours a tendency to dream. What if, starting tomorrow morning, you took the time to think about your dreams and why not even write them down in a dedicated notebook?   

Mathieu Nedelec, sport scientist in charge of research projects on sleep and recovery. I teach best practices to improve sleep and performance. I will read your answers carefully and let you know when my next posts will be published.

Napping: sleepiness or sleepability?

What about you, are you a napping enthusiast?

Mateusz dach

Mateusz Dach

We are progressively coming out of lockdown. This unprecedented period will have upset a good deal of our habits. Let’s take the example of Axel, a young executive who found himself working from home overnight. But can we truly speak of remote working to qualify a similar work load which needs to be done in a productive and efficient time which is very condensed and requires to be carried out during two toddlers’ napping time? Indeed, Axel hasn’t had the time to nap since the beginning of the lockdown. Just after a mentally-exhausting morning, followed by a very quick lunch, the start of the kids’ napping time kicks off a period of work which he hopes to be as productive as possible. We can identify three types of naps, depending on the objective: preventing or prevailing against the diurnal sleepiness? Have you ever experienced that feeling of drowsiness that you usually come at the beginning of the afternoon and which can be a symptom of sleep debt?

A preventive nap is taken in anticipation of a future sleep restriction;

A compensatory nap is taken after a sleep restriction;

The “appetitive” nap is taken for comfort or pleasure. A study even showed that an “appetitive” nap, with an immediate sleep initiation, was associated to better nocturnal sleep quality, and was not linked to diurnal sleepiness. So, napping: sleepiness or sleepability? Another study which was carried out among elite athletes showed that they went to sleep faster compared to active subjects. This was the case for the first - which fits the challenge of sleeping in a new sleeping environment - and the second nap of the study. These results remained valid in mathematical models which controlled sleepiness and the amount of sleep gathered prior to the experiment. In other terms, the ability to fall asleep at one’s pleasure could be linked to a certain training, and not only to previous sleep restriction-induced pressure. As children are gradually allowed back at the nursery, Alex will make the most of this afternoon to give the “appetitive” nap a shot! Contrary to pre-conceived ideas, this could even help him enjoy a better night’s sleep tonight!                 

Mathieu Nedelec, sport scientist in charge of research projects on sleep and recovery. I teach best practices to improve sleep and performance. I will read your answers carefully and let you know when my next posts will be published.

Meditation: an ally for your sleep during lockdown

What about you, are you meditating during the lockdown?

Spencer selover

I told you in a recent post, that several people had been experiencing sleep disruption since the lockdown began. This unprecedented lockdown situation has actually led to three major types of sleep disruption, and sleep can notably be disrupted by a high level of anxiety linked to the pandemic. This adds to the problem considering a good quality of sleep can protect you from viruses. The studies held in China on the effects of the lockdown have unsurprisingly shown acute levels of anxiety, difficult emotional management and several cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when the lockdown exceeds a period of 10 days. The lockdown may lead to a type of boredom, a frenetic desire to keep up with the news, while isolation may hinder the sharing and expression of anxiety-inducing thoughts. A short daily session of mindfulness - a branch of meditation - may be a strategy to nurture your confined sleep! Mindfulness can be defined as total awareness, without judgement, rooted in the present; it has already shown its benefits to treat certain sleep pathologies. What about during this unprecedented period of lockdown? A study conducted in the Chinese province of Wuhan, which was the first to be hit by the virus, offered participants a 10-min meditation session every morning on a smartphone (lockdown rules!), during a period of 10 days. The control group was offered a 10-min session of relaxation. The meditative session invited participants to focus on the present moment, be aware of what’s happening at every second, and to accept it. First positive result: the meditators noticed a lower level of daily anxiety. The sleep of those who had only taken part in the relaxation session was impacted throughout the follow-up period: on average, they lost 40 minutes of sleep per every 1000 cases of Covid-19 announced by the media. The meditators’ sleep duration remained unchanged throughout the same period. So why don’t you give it a go as from tomorrow? A meditation session in the morning, maximum 30 minutes of exposure to the news per day, and avoid checking it right before bedtime. The current lockdown situation can also serve as a good opportunity to take a step back and focus on your inner self…

Mathieu Nedelec, sport scientist in charge of research projects on sleep and recovery. I teach best practices to improve sleep and performance. I will read your answers carefully and let you know when my next posts will be published.

How to stay active during the lockdown

What about you, how do you remain physically active during this unprecedented period?


Mathieu Nedelec, sport scientist in charge of research projects on sleep and recovery. I teach best practices to improve sleep and performance. I will read your answers carefully and let you know when my next posts will be published.

The lockdown is necessary to contain the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19, but it leads the overall population to be less physically active. Even if it is not clearly visible, this decrease is effective during this period. Let’s not be distracted by the visible part of active people, which is blown out of proportion through the magnifying mirror of social networks. Let’s rather consider the invisible part - much more important and quiet - represented by all those who have stopped exercising in their daily lives. The extended stay at home policy increases sedentary behaviours (excessive sitting or lying down time) and decreases energy expenditure; it also contributes to anxiety and depression. In Paris, individual physical activity is banned between 10:00am and 7:00pm. This is a way to toughen the measures to strive the coronavirus spread in France. But this is an additional constraint which will not favour “people programmed for laziness” to physically exercise, i.e. people who are not naturally inclined to physical activity and would rather lie on the sofa. In a different time, Nelson Mandela faced much stronger constraints, which did not prevent him to rigorously follow a training plan during his 27 years of captivity. Here are some lockdown tips or how Mandela managed to stay active in his tiny prison cell. A damp prison cell of 2m2 in which his daily routine started at 5:00am, from Monday to Thursday. In spite of daily and exhausting manual labour, he started by a 45-min run on the spot, followed by 100 push ups, 200 crunches, 50 lunges and calisthenics exercises, during one hour, aka the same duration as the one tolerated outside during the 2020 lockdown… Mandela stuck to this routine from Monday to Thursday, followed by a 3-day period of rest. As a training and recovery enthusiast, I can only be in awe of this opportune alternation between physical activity and recovery time. In addition to boosting your immune system, physical activity is a real moment of release: “Physical activity releases tensions, and tension is the enemy of serenity. I realised that I worked and thought more efficiently when I felt fit, and I consequently rigorously followed, throughout my life, the discipline of training” (Nelson Mandela). The World Health Organisation recommends 2:30 hours of moderately intense physical activity or 1:15 hours of vigorously intense physical activity, or a combination of both per week. These recommendations can still be applied at home, with no special equipment and in a restricted space. Just have fun with a skipping rope, the staircase in your building, weighted plastic bottles or a simple chair on which you can perform several strengthening exercises! Are you interested in another lesson to maintain your physical activity under strict constraints? I knew a soldier who was very fond of running and who spent several months at a time on an aircraft carrier. He told me that he was happy to have a hundred meters of tarmac to pursue his intermittent, back-and-forth training… So, I urge you, as from tonight or tomorrow morning, to make the most of running outside which is still an available option, for now! What’s more, physical activity in the evening paves the way for a good night’s sleep! Take your kids out in the pushchair, they will be delighted to breathe in some fresh air! The ban of any kind of individual physical practice in Paris between 10:00am and 7:00pm means that you can still do it between 7:00pm and 10:00am, which means a 15-hour leeway scope per 24-hour cycle… Once more, the lockdown period, as uncertain as it may be, can be overcome in good health and can be the opportunity to set some healthy habits that you will stick to when this crisis is over.